Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fate Core Venture City Stories Review

Venture City Stories is a supplement for the new Fate Core game by Evil Hat Productions. It is a 34 page book written by Brian Engard and edited by Joshua Yearsley. Tazio Bettin handled both the cover and interior artwork while art direction and layout was helmed by none other than Fred Hicks himself.
The book opens right up with describing Venture City, a Fate campaign setting designed mostly for street and city level heroes. Well, superheroes really, but not necessarily of the Justice League or Avengers caliber. The city itself is one of contradictions with vile villains and shining heroes. All of that amidst varying shades of grey.

I should point out that Venture City Stories calls itself an adventure toolkit rather than a campaign book. This is because it is filled with gaming goodness and ideas that you can pick and choose. Choose to play it wholecloth and you will find, once players have been introduced and decisions have been made, the world takes on a life of its own. And, that is part of the beauty of Fate.

Within the book, several example issues—otherwise, plot ideas or hooks are introduced. There are also a number of factions and descriptions of important places and people you’re likely to run into one way or the other in the fictional city. The issues are handled in Venture City Adventures just as they are within Fate Core, with the suggestion to select two immediate issues, two impending issues, or one of each. Some of the sample issues presented include: Not safe after dark, Are supers still human?, Gangland powderkeg, and Citywide blackout. There really isn’t any explanation for these issues and that’s okay. They are pretty self-explanatory and they are meant to get the creative juices flowing. So, if you’re looking for someone to plan out your entire adventure or even the beginnings of one for you, this isn’t where it is going to happen. There is one example where they take one impending issue and one immediate issue and show how the two work in conjunction to lay the groundwork for an interesting and exciting game.

Factions, places, and people are all part of the same section, although separated out. And, with so few pages, it makes sense. The Fate Fractal is toyed with here a little bit. Factions are defined not only by their descriptions, but by new aspects including the slogan and secret aspects. Factions also have up to six skills: Bureaucracy, Security, and Violence being three of them. Each of the Factions also include a location which includes a new issue. They also include people which could be villainous NPCs or supporting cast members. There isn’t a hard and fast rule on how the Factions should have their skills figured as far as how many points should be spent on them. That might have been nice to have, but figuring it is all relative, your group’s game might have various Factions with widely different skill spreads to show different levels of helpfulness or threat yet be completely different from someone else’s game’s Factions.

The book continues with the example setup used earlier to show how issues can be used, now adding in factions, places, and people. One thing I noticed is that Faction skills are represented numerically with +3, +6, etc. However, the people are rated by the adjective associated with their level of competency: Superb, Great, Good, Fair, and Average. I know this might look neat to a lot of people—something besides boring old numbers, but it is one thing I always disliked. Put the numbers in parentheses next to the adjectives if needs be, but give me the numbers to make it faster and easier, especially when I am someone who doesn’t play Fate all the time.

While the section on Factions, People, and Places is excellent background fodder, providing things to slide into your game and giving you some neat ideas, my main course is served up on page 23 of the PDF. Here, the team goes into talking about character creation and super powers. I don’t want to give away too much, but it is very well done. Powers are based on stunts from Fate Core, but they are also something much more. They go into detail on adding special effects, drawbacks, etc. This is topped up with yet more sample characters—all neat and original.

While this book is PWYW (Pay What You Want), I’d definitely say it’s worth more than the $0 many will surely put into the box. It is a great read and it is put together very well. It goes quickly, but I think, if you’re into this sort of thing or even just hacking Fate Core, you will find yourself turning back to this resource more than a few times in the future.